Baseball History: Why Don't People Care About That Joe Carter Home Run?

Baseball History: Why Don't People Care About That Joe Carter Home Run?

Baseball History: Why Don't People Care About That Joe Carter Home Run?

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Aug. 18 2010 2:34 PM

Baseball History: Why Don't People Care About That Joe Carter Home Run?


Bobby Thomson of the pennant-winning New York Giants died this week, so sportswriters are taking the opportunity to write about the Greatest (or Most Memorable, or Most Important) Home Runs of All Time.  

Somewhere on the lists, but not as high up as Thomson and his Shot Heard Round the World , is Joe Carter hitting the three-run home run that ended the 1993 World Series . ESPN's Rob Neyer :

you might reasonably wonder why Thomson's pennant-winning home run ranks ahead of Joe Carter's World Series-winning home run

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Joe Posnanski wonders, too , after ranking the Carter home run No. 7:

In some ways, it’s amazing that this home run is not better remembered.

[...]

Maybe the reason this homer isn’t as well remembers is that it has never gotten a nickname that stuck. Joe’s Jolt. Mitch’s Mistake. Maybe it’s because it happened in Canada. In many ways, this was the most spectacular home run in World Series history, more spectacular than Fisk’s because it clinched the series, more spectacular home run than Mazeroski’s homer because Maz hit his with the score TIED in the bottom of the ninth rather than with his team behind.

It's simpler than that. The Joe Carter home run didn't stick in the public's imagination because it wasn't that big a deal. Yes, the Phillies were winning the game at the time—but the Blue Jays were leading the Series, and had never trailed overall. Philadelphia had a super offense, fine starting pitching, and a dogmeat bullpen. Mitch Williams' last pitch to Joe Carter was merely the last spurt of an agonizing bleed-out.

The 1993 World Series was mostly decided in the eighth inning of Game Four , when the Phillies' Larry Andersen and Williams combined to serve up two walks, three singles, a double, and a triple, turning a 14-9 Phillies lead into a 15-14 defeat and putting Toronto ahead 3 games to 1. A complete-game shutout by Curt Schilling—throwing 147 pitches to ensure that the bullpen door never opened—kept the Phillies alive to reach Game Six.

If your bulllpen stinks, don't remove a pitcher who happens to be pitching well that day. This principle of baseball crystallized for me in Game Six as I watched Jim Fregosi, with a 6-5 lead, lift Roger Mason—2 1/3 innings, 1 hit, no runs, having held the Blue Jays down long enough for the Phillies to take a 6-5 lead in the eighth inning—and turn the game over to the rest of the relievers.

Joe Carter happened to be in the right place. The Phillies' bullpen had already loaded the bases in the eighth inning—two walks and a hit batsman—but didn't quite manage to blow the game then. For the ninth, Fregosi brought in Williams.

This was not the unhittable Dennis Eckersley preparing to finish off a gimpy Kirk Gibson to end the game. Williams was a mess. He walked Rickey Henderson to open the inning, gave up a booming fly ball to Devon White for an out, then served up a single to Paul Molitor. People don't remember Carter's home run as a miracle because it wasn't one. The miracle would have been if the Blue Jays hadn't won the game.